Obviously, nothing becomes "iconic" overnight. It's a term that has to be earned and the six-decade-old Chevrolet Corvette is deserving of that status, and more.
The seventh-generation 2014 'Vette (few multi-syllable cars become as well-known for their abbreviated handles as for their proper name) maintains its brand mystique. In fact, adding the Stingray appellation is an acknowledgement that history and heritage are as important to the Corvette as its modern-day looks, advanced high-tech content and sizzling performance.
From any angle, the 2014 Stingray - Sting Ray was first used for the artful "split-window" 1963 'Vette - is all Corvette, all the time. The wedge-shaped body and grinning grille are symbolic of previous editions, yet most of the car is completely new. The front fenders and hood (the latter made from carbon fiber) are dramatically shaped and the coupe's removable carbon-fiber top accentuates a more angular hatchback opening. Then there's the air-intake and heat-extraction vents on the hood, sides and atop the rear fenders that aren't just for show. And at long last, the Corvette's designers have fashioned a breathtaking rump, including an integrated spoiler, non-round taillights and quad exhaust-pipe outlets.
The sensational convertible is not merely a coupe without a roof, but a highly detailed sculpture that carries shapes and themes from the body to the interior and back. The soft top can be lowered remotely using the key fob and at vehicle speeds up to 30 mph.
The dashing cockpit is therefore the design equal to the exterior, which is something the 'Vette faithful have waited a long time to see. Available carbon fiber, aluminum, suede and stitched leather trim is used, the steering-wheel diameter is reduced and the magnesium-framed seats are built for comfort as much as for support. The effect is dramatic and world-class all at once.
Equally dramatic are the Stingray's new bones. The stiffer chassis uses weight-reducing aluminum that's about 100 pounds lighter than the previous steel structure (the Z06 model was aluminum, however), although total vehicle weight has increased by the same amount. It's also stronger, which means the convertible body requires no additional bracing and thus weighs about the same as the coupe.
Under the hood is a newly designed 6.2-liter "LT1" V8 worth 455 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque. The previous 6.2 was rated at 430/424.
Direct fuel injection (new for Chevy V8 engines) and variable valve timing are key to the extra power with Chevrolet saying that the torque rating actually comes close to that of the larger 7.0-liter V8 found in the previous Z06 Corvette. If you've driven a Z06, you'll understand that this is a bold statement.
Cylinder deactivation, a program whereby half the engine seamlessly shuts down under light loads, cruise and deceleration, benefits highway fuel economy. The overall numbers are 17-mpg city and 29 highway, which is up from 16/26.
Both the new-for-2014 seven-speed manual transmission and optional six-speed automatic are located directly ahead of the rear suspension for improved weight distribution, just as before. The seven-speed's "Active Rev Matching" blips the throttle when upshifting/downshifting for smooth gear transitions and better vehicle stability, such as when gearing down while braking for a corner.
Standard is a five-position selector knob with settings for Weather (ratchets up the stability and traction controls), Eco for maximum fuel economy, Tour (standard default position), Sport (firms up the suspension and throttle settings and reduces exhaust backpressure) and Track (really firm and loud plus adds a lap timer to the electronic gauge panel).
Most Stingray buyers will want to spring for the $2,800 Z51 performance option that boosts engine output to 460 ponies and adds a performance suspension and exhaust system, beefier Brembo-labeled brakes, larger wheels and tires and both differential and oil coolers. According to Chevrolet, Z51-equipped Corvettes will dash to 60 mph from rest in 3.8 seconds, which is about 0.3 seconds quicker than the base Stingray.
All this power and glory starts at shockingly reasonable $52,000 for the coupe and $57,000 for the convertible. That makes the sexy, potent Corvette hands-down the best performance machine for the money.
And that's why it's the most anticipated Corvette in five decades, and likely the best.
What you should know: 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray
Type: Two-door, rear-wheel-drive coupe/roadster
Engine (hp): 6.2-liter OHV V8 (455)
Transmissions: Seven-speed manual; six-speed automatic (opt.)
Market position: The Corvette makes economic mincemeat out of the competition, excelling in design and total performance. A more sophisticated presence simply adds to the sports car's desirability.
Points: Dramatic restyle controversial in some quarters, but should be lauded by most 'Vette fans; Amazing power and fuel economy without fancy overhead cam layout; Stunning interior update; Sophisticated variable powertrain and suspension settings range from thrifty to track ready; Will there be Z06 and ZR1 versions to follow?
Safety: Front airbags; side-impact airbags; side-curtain airbags (coupe); anti-lock brakes; traction control; stability control.
MPG (city/hwy) 17/29 (MT)
Base price (incl. destination) $52,000
Base price: $102,000
Double the price, but the performance gap might be closer than you think.
Base price: $100,600
Ultra-quick AWD warrior is one of the few cars 'Vette owners should fear.
Base price: $70,000
Jag's new roadster offers three mild-to-wild engines ranging from 340-495 hp.